One Pose—Three Ways
Meghan Lastra is the studio manager of Bread and Yoga where she teaches Hathavidya, a Hatha style with a strong emphasis on alignment and breathing into each pose. Currently, she is completing her 500-hour Hathavidya training. In addition, to yoga, she loves singing and writing songs with her band, Wildfire. Here she describes the beauty of anjaneyasana.
YogaCity NYC: What pose did you chose and why do you like it?
Meghan Lastra: I chose anjaneyasana because the more I practice this beautiful and foundational pose, the more I find in it. And it prepares you for so many other poses.
YCNYC: Describe the anatomy of the first pose and body parts engaged.
ML: The first pose is the way anjaneyasana is performed inside of classical surya namaskar. Back knee and fingertips both touching the earth. Anatomically, this pose is a deep stretch of the front gate of the hip which goes on to prepare you for split poses like eka pada rajakapotasana and hanumanasana. Within the pose, the back leg is strongly engaged and the shin activated (energy moving down towards the earth) so that the pressure is off the back knee. Keep bending through the front knee to explore the full stretch of the straight leg hip. Hips are squared forward, allowing both hip points to be in line with each other. The lower body continues to sink forward, but the upper body started to lift in the opposite direction. The gaze is directed forward or up allowing energy to move up and back through the nape of the neck.
YCNYC: What body parts are engaged in the second pose?
ML: The second pose is taking anjaneyasana one step further, bringing the arms up alongside the ears. Here it is really important to use the energy and activation of the shin pressing downward to keep the pressure off the back knee. The lower body still sinks forward, bending through the front knee, but here there is the added element of a large back bend.
While there's a hint of it in the first version, here it can be played with more fully. To do so, start to draw energy upwards from the lower abdomen. Let this continue to rise up through the torso, drawing the upper body up and back even as the lower body continues to slide forward into the lunge. As the arms stay strong alongside the ears, the back muscles are active shielded blades move towards each other and tops of the shoulders rest away from the ears.
YCNYC: What is the overall effect of the third pose on the body, and what does this one add to the understanding of the pose [and mind]?
ML: In this high lunge variation of anjaneyasana, not only is the back hip stretched through its front gate, balance is also challenged. This is a great way for someone to explore this front gate hip stretch if they're feeling pain or discomfort in the knee. To perform the pose, press strongly out through the back heel so that it is perpendicular to the mat and bend through the front knee activating the front shin to help with balance. Be mindful that the upper body is not leaning forward, the lower abdomen is drawing back away from the thigh. Continue to move this lift up and back through the top of the head. The result is that the upper body is completely upright and the front gate of the hip is more deeply stretched. With all of these variations, try to explore each pose by closing the eyes and watching the breath move through your body. As the breath moves up through your belly, rib cage, and clavicle so too does the placement of your energy in the pose allowing for further connection.
YCNYC: Tell us if you have any new workshops we would like to attend.
ML: I currently teach two days a week at Bread and Yoga: 12 p.m. Monday (donation class!) and 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Later this month, on January 22-24, I'll be co-leading a weekend of workshops at Bread and Yoga entitled Diving In. The workshops are for students looking to take a next step in their practice from wherever they may be!
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